Republican county legislators today continued insisting the Gorski administration is hoarding money, this time charging that Erie County has failed to maintain its roads despite a $2.1 million surplus in its 1988 roads budget.
County Executive Gorski responded that his 16-month-old administration has been working hard to upgrade an eroded county roads system inherited from the prior Republican county administration.
Gorski, a Democrat, said a long-range program is currently being developed by the county's public works office.
Budget director Sheila Kee said preliminary information shows the road fund balance will be $2.1 million, but said the final figure won't be known until an ongoing audit is completed.
At a press conference today, Legislator Ralph M. Mohr, R-Lancaster, displayed several photographs of deteriorated county highways -- including one picture of Mohr he said showed him standing in a 3-foot deep pothole on a county-owned road in the Town of Marilla -- then called on the administration to use the available money to repair the county roadways.
County roads are so neglected, Mohr said, that there is only one north-south thoroughfare into the Town of Alden, because the others are closed.
Ms. Kee said the county spent $30.5 million on road work in 1988, and is pleased that the surplus exists.
"I think it's good news we have a fund balance," she said. "Now we have a backup in case there is an emergency."
She said the money couldn't have been spent last year, since it was not known that the fund balance would exist until the year-end auditing. The money can now be used to continue with the county's roads and bridge program, Ms. Kee said.
Public Works Commissioner John C. Loffredo agreed the county roads are dilapidated, and said his office has done as much work as possible over the past year, while also developing a long-term plan to get the county's roads and bridges into shape.
Loffredo estimated it will cost more than $300 million to do the necessary road and bridge repair work, largely because, he said, there was virtually no maintenance done by the prior administration.
About 65 percent of the county's 622 bridges are deficient, Loffredo said. In most cases, it was sufficient to reduce the tonnage limit on the bridges until repairs can be completed, but in about nine cases, the bridges had to be closed, he said. One of those bridges has been repaired and re-opened, he added.
Of the county's 1,200 miles of road, about 33 percent need major repairs, he said. However, they remain safe for driving, he said.
Loffredo estimated it will cost $65 million to repair the county bridges and another $280 million for the needed road work.
At his press conference today, Mohr charged that the failure to repair roadways in a more timely manner has resulted in the county paying the federal government almost $114,000 in interest payments for unused borrowed money.
And, he charged, the county has budgeted over $394,000 in the 1989 budget for road projects that are paid for and complete.
"There can only be one reason for the county executive not using these funds," Mohr said. "He's obviously accumulating a slush fund, so he can reduce taxes when he's running for re-election."
Ms. Kee rejected Mohr's allegations and said he should spend his time trying to help the county address it real problems, rather than make up ones that don't exist.
"He belongs in a pothole," she said, echoing a similar statement made by Gorski.